Red Holloway I-VI-II

hard bop blues licks Aug 31, 2018

This week, a lick inspired by the work of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway. Just like I got hip to Jimmy Forrest's badass command of the changes by hearing him on Jack McDuff's The Honeydripper – an album I picked up because it featured Grant Green – I mostly became aware of Red Holloway through his playing on another Jack McDuff recording, which I also got into because of the guitar player involved, George Benson. Benson's early work with McDuff has been reissued on George Benson & Jack McDuff and, along with his playing on a couple of Lou Donaldson LPs a year or two later, is some of my favorite straightahead Jazz George.

It seems more than coincidental that both Forrest and Holloway worked with McDuff. Together with Percy France, the saxophonist on Jimmy Smith's Home Cookin', they constitute a kind of triumvirate of funky tenor perfection: three musicians who effortlessly erase the line between raw, gutbucket r&b blowing and a murderous fluency with the changes.

This lick is inspired by Holloway's four choruses on Benson and McDuff's uptempo blues "The Three Day Thang." It's a jazz-blues chord progression, so every time it comes around to the end of the second line, Holloway blows major-scale-sounding licks over the I before climbing either up or down into the major 3rd of the VI chord. From there, he plays altered dominant sounds of the VI to resolve into the 3rd of the II chord, which he plays as a II7 (dominant) rather than ii7 (minor 7) chord. So the lick below takes place over bars 7 and 8 and into bar 9, or the chords in bold below:

I      IV     I     I   

IV    IV     I    VI7

II7    V     I VI II V